As Sting once wisely said: I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien. I’m an Englishman in New York.
What he could have said was: I’m an alien. I’m an illegal alien. I’m an insect-like thing in a shanty town in South Africa. Granted it’s not as catchy, but it does sum up District 9 quite nicely.
Sneaking up on the box office like a little sneaky alien, District 9 somehow blasted its way to the top of the charts, despite coming from a first-time director and featuring an unknown cast. Of course the fact that it’s good should mean it nabs a high place on the box office, but Joe Public aren’t always smart enough to flock to the best film, instead getting confused by bright piles of poo with a picture of the Wayan brothers pinned to it.
Newcomer Neill Blomkamp was down to direct the Halo adaptation, but after it was canned, producer Peter Jackson gave him a wad of money to make something else instead. Blomkamp drew on his childhood in South Africa to cleverly meld the real into the alien, having the outerspace visitors –“Prawns” – treated as lower class folk and relegated to live in shanty towns. By drawing on documentary and CCTV style footage, Blomkamp adds an extra dimension of realism to the familiar alien format. CGI aliens meld perfectly with the real world, with two singled out as our “hero” prawns who team up with a hapless government dude due to circumstances I won’t go into to avoid spoiling the gruesome surprises.
What you get is a sort of buddy-movie, mixed with Tsotsi, the alien-in-bar scenes from Star Wars, some first person shoot-em-up games and transformers. All sort of familiar, but done in such a neat way it’s simply marvellous. With no big-name stars it’s difficult to tell where the story will lead you, and there is a gritty and explosive streak of violence that will have you “ewwing” and “wooing” in equal measures. There’s also a lot of use of the excellent swear word “fook”, which you’ll be saying for days after seeing this film.
Unfortunately the film falters towards the end when it attempts to big-up the action and brings in some unnecessary transformer-eqsue action, diluting the smaller, indie feel to the flick. But still, this is a smart take on the alien genre, the docu-style bringing an element of realism to pixels such that you’ll really care what happens to them. Worthy of its box-office success, District 9 plumps up the points and scores a CF2. Fooking hell.